At least 16 law firms and other companies employing state lawmakers are trying to beat back subpoenas from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission, court filings show.
A coalition of 12 companies joined together to filed a little-noticed attempt to block Moreland Commission subpoenas late last month, including the law firms who employ Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, and Sens. Thomas O’Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, and Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County.
Meanwhile, the company that created the website for a Virginia-based non-profit group that shadily targeted Democratic Senate candidates last year is also seeking to quash a Moreland subpoena. The group, known as Common Sense Principles, required the company sign an extensive non-disclosure agreement before creating the site, court documents show.
The court filings are among at least eight filed against the Moreland Commission seeking to block subpoenas seeking information, mostly surrounding state lawmakers’ outside employment with private companies. Previous filers included firms Hiscock & Barclay and Harris Beach, which counts Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Seneca, Fayette County, among its employees.
Attorneys for the Senate Majority Coalition and Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, filed a separate suit last month challenging the legal authority of the Moreland panel, which was created earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to probe public corruption. The commission issued a preliminary report in early December, detailing a pay-to-play culture in Albany and recommending was to stem public malfeasance.
But it’s not just lawmakers and their allies challenging the Moreland commission. In a filing earlier this month, Manhattan-based Strategic Advantage International argued a subpoena demanding information about its work with Common Sense Principles was overly broad and violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
Common Sense—which funded $1 million worth of mailers attacking now-Sens. George Latimer, D-Rye, Westchester County, and Ted O’Brien, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, in 2012—has gone to lengths to conceal who was funding the group. The non-profit group, which is registered in Virginia, has been a target of the Moreland investigation, with the commission expressing frustration with its inability to identify the Common Sense donors in its report this month.
According to its court filing, Strategic Advantage International was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before creating the group’s website, commonsenseprinciples.com. The confidentiality agreement, which was included in the filing, prevents the company from speaking to any member of the press about Common Sense or to reveal the identities of any of its donors or employees.
“Consultant agrees not to speak with any member of the press regarding any aspect of Company’s activities without authorization, in writing, from a member of the Board of Directors,” the non-disclosure agreement reads. “This shall apply to any website, blog, or mainstream media organization and shall apply to any statement, including those made ‘off the record’ or ‘on background.’”
The petition filed by the group of 12 lawmaker employers can be found here. The Common Sense confidentiality agreement is below: